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Apr-02-2010 17:37printcomments

Local Citizens Aid Haitan Recovery Without Leaving Salem

CrisisCamp Volunteers Transform Disaster Relief.

UN photo of the destruction in Haiti
UN photo of the destruction in Haiti

(SALEM, Ore.) - Injured Haitians frantically sent calls for help – many from within the rubble– via cell phones texts hoping someone would respond. Volunteers thousands of miles away heard the call, located via GPS, and relayed crucial information to relief workers in Haiti.

A map of Port au Prince (PaP) did not exist, adding to the confusion for international relief organizations struggling to determine locations and status of hospitals, aid stations and support search efforts. Volunteers in the US, Europe and Canada linked through the web, electronically sifted through the rubble. Dozens of teams worked together using satellite images, GPS data and photographs, to create the first detailed street map of PaP, Haiti, to direct first responders to victims and resources throughout the destroyed city.

Every Saturday since the earthquake in Haiti, hundreds of volunteers, spanning 8 countries, joined forces to improve humanitarian disaster relief through creative technology at CrisisCamps. Today, the work continues as relief turned to renewal.

Open to the public, CrisisCampSALEM brings local volunteers together, Saturday, April 10th at 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., at Willamette University to contribute to ongoing projects focused on Haitian recovery and future disaster relief. Programmers, coders, developers and those with in opensource technology experience are especially needed, as are those who can translate French or Creole. “Everyone can contribute, photographers, artists, writers and web-developers, even non-techies like me” noted Joan Towers, event organizer.

Crisis Camp in Washington D.C. that was held 27 Feb. 2010

Crisis Camp in Washington D.C. that was held 27 Feb. 2010

“Horrified by the destruction and the loss, I ached for the Haitian people; like so many, after donating to the relief fund I wanted to do more yet wondered what else can I do from here?”

CrisisCamp provided the answer. Ms. Towers heard about CrisisCampPDX through Twitter and immediately volunteered days after the Haitian earthquake.

“After a brief orientation, teams of talented volunteers immediately began work on people finder databases, geomapping Port au Prince, rerouting calls for help and identifying aid stations”. Focused, determined citizens, linked online, onsite and in cities across the globe, they responded to calls for help from the United Nations, the World Bank and international rescuers.

“Collaborating with such talented and creative people exploring and creating technology was life-changing, I wanted to share this experience with Salem.” explained Ms. Towers why she launched a similar effort here.

A business consultant, she has spent many nights and weekends since January exploring the opensource world, networking with other crisiscamp organizers and technical advisors, and recruiting volunteers to offer others the opportunity to contribute to this global grassroots effort.

Through contacts, she heard of two compassionate Willamette students who were organizing fundraisers for Haiti.

The student leaders quickly agreed to co-organize and host the hackathon. Karina Hoogstede, Willamette Students for Haiti, noted “Haiti may have faded from the headlines, but we need to stay focused and organized in our outreach and advocacy efforts.”She and Violet Martin are actively recruiting students, faculty and staff, to give a few hours to help save a life. Facebook users can become a fan of CrisisCampSalem or Willamette Students for Haiti.

Interested volunteers should register at: crisiscampsalem.eventbrite.com, email Ms. Towers at: crisiscampsalem@gmail.com.

Crisiscamps harness technology to create powerful collaborations for a global purpose. “We are witnessing the development of a transformational change in how an average citizen can participate in the crisis response effort,” says CrisisCamp co-founder Noel Dickover. “Previously you could only send money. Now, you can directly help”.

Those unable to participate on April 10th yet have the skills, technology and a few hours to give can join the effort virtually, go to: wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Virtual_workers for ideas how to contribute.

CrisisCommons was founded in March 2009 through an impromptu Tweetup; a small band of idealists and innovators gathered to discuss the idea of a creating a common community through citizen volunteers, crisis response organizations, international humanitarian relief agencies, non-profits and the private sector. Within minutes, the CrisisCommons community was born and CrisisCamp events were created to cultivate innovation in the use of technology for greater mobility and efficiency during crisis.

Facebook users can become a fan of CrisisCampSalem or Willamette Students for Haiti. Learn more at about this movement at: crisiscommons.org.

If you’d like more information about CrisisCamp, please contact Joan Towers with CrisisCampSalem, 503-559-7508, jmt@bizdevpros.com or crisiscampsalem@gmail.com

Willamette Students for Haiti:
Karina Hoogstede,
Violet Martin:

Willamette University:
Laura Clerc,

CrisisCommons and CrisisCamp:
Noel Dickover, D.C.,
703-231-3912 (cell),

Also visit: wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Main_Page

YouTube also has many videos from various crisiscamps, as well as media coverage.

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